Be honest with yourself, how many times in a week do you find yourself musing about how expensive everything seems to be these days? Whether its fast cars, fast women, or even fast food we desire we never seem to have enough money to cover it. The sad fact is that this nation has been overwhelmed by consumer culture to the extent that we fritter money away needlessly every day of our lives. We work our fingers to the bone five days a week to earn a wage only to waste it on things we don’t need and sometimes even things we don’t want.
Quick show of hands – How many of you reading this article take a packed lunch to work with you and how many go out and buy something at lunch time? I’ll bet more than half of you buy something at lunch time and that is a perfect metaphor for how people have stopped taking time to do the little things that save us a fortune over time.
So where do you begin? First thing you need to do is get a notebook and spend a week writing down every last penny you spend on everything, then you can start to look at what you are spending and where you can cut back.
So lets start with the big expenses, car loans, mortgages, utilities, bank accounts. Most people never change providers once they start with one of these services and that is astonishing. There are price comparison sites on the internet for just about anything nowadays but apathy and the fear it will be a lot of hassle prevent people from shopping around.
Do you have a mortgage? Then go and visit a mortgage broker and see if you can get a better deal elsewhere, you could save thousands in the long run and I guarantee your new mortgage provider will walk you through all the paperwork and make it as easy for you as they can. After all they want your business and will bend over backwards to get it.
Car owner? Did you get finance from the dealer who sold it you? Then check your finance agreement and if there is no penalty for early settlement move your debt to the cheapest personal loan you can find. Dealer finance is generally some of the highest priced credit around because the dealers rely on customers wanting a quick convenient solution that lets them drive home today. There are far better deals out there if only people would look.
So who provides your gas, electricity, phone? Once again there are easy to use comparison websites to find the best deal for you and most of the time it only takes one phone call to switch providers. So why don’t you do it now?
Did you know that the vast majority of people have the same bank account their entire lives? All major banks have the same motto which is “get them while they’re young” because they are well aware of this fact. Go and compare your bank account to the other accounts available, look at how much interest you are earning on your balance (or paying on your overdraft) and if its not the best, switch it. Banks are eager for new business the same as everyone else and they can set up an account with one phonecall. They even transfer all your standing orders to make it as simple as possible to do.
Do you use a cellphone? If you use a prepaid phone then STOP. Get a contract phone instead, look honestly at how much you use your phone and get the best deal to suit you. Don’t be tempted by the company that is offering the latest and flashiest handset because you will end up paying for it in the long run. Remember a phone is a phone is a phone and you won’t go far wrong. For the people with contract phones, how long until your contract expires? When it does expire, don’t sign up for a new contract in exchange for a new flashier handset, instead tell them you want an out of contract deal. Doing this gives you the same service but also the right to leave at any time you choose with no notice. The phone company know this too and will either give you a cheaper deal or more free minutes to entice you to stay with them.
Everything I have written above is true of insurance policies, pensions, credit cards, any service that you make a monthly payment to. Look at the competition and if there is a better deal to be had – take it. One weekend spent looking at these will save you a fortune in the long run.
So you have done all this and are already saving a packet, what about the day to day expenses?
The first place to look is the weekly shopping list. Do you have any ready made meals on there? How about frozen pizza? If so shame on you. I would never advise anyone to save money by not having good food but these kind of things are expensive, have the taste and texture of salted cardboard, and all the nutritional content of a dungbeetle. Next time you go shopping invest in a cookery book or two, home cooking is nothing to be scared of and once you get into it can be good fun. Now I realize there are single people out there living on their own and it can seem expensive buying a load of ingredients to make a meal when you can buy convenience food for one. I assure you this is false economy. There is nothing wrong with making a meal and covering whatever’s left with cling film and putting it in the fridge for the next night, it will still be perfectly good to eat. The other thing to remember is a good hearty home cooked meal made with lots of fresh vegetables will fill you up for the evening. Eating a microwave lasagne on the other hand will not give you all the nutrients and fibre you need and you will find yourself snacking at chips or chocolate later in the evening. All of which of course cost money.
It might take a little longer but not only will you be richer, you will be healthier and you will start to appreciate real food with real flavours again. Of course while you are waiting for your meal to cook you could always make some sandwiches or a salad ready for your lunch tomorrow.
So how do you usually travel? If you drive everywhere then look at what kind of journeys you make. If you make a lot of short journeys of only a couple of miles each ask yourself could you cycle any of these journeys instead? We all know that a car is a hideously expensive beast to run what with fuel, tyres, repair bills and the like. Get yourself a bike and get some exercise while you save money.
How about public transport? Is this a traveling option you can use? I’ll be perfectly honest with you I live in London and I have actually worked out it is cheaper for me to run a small motorbike than to pay for the public transport here, however that is what is best for my circumstances. Look at all the options available and see what is best for you.
Here’s a toughie – Smoking. I know its a pain and I know how difficult it is to quit (I really do) but what do you actually get out of it apart from a bad cough. Work out how much you spend on cigarettes each year and think what you could do with that money. You never know it could just be the push you need to do something about it.
There are also things you can do around the home. Make sure your house is properly insulated, particularly in the loft. Heat rises and if you don’t insulate you are paying to heat the air above your house. Also fit low energy light bulbs, they cost a bit more to buy but they last an awful lot longer and use much less energy. Besides they are also good for the environment. If you live in a hot climate think about fitting solar panels because they are lot cheaper than they used to be, and some people actually earn money by feeding their excess power back into the grid.
So there’s a few things to think about, you’ll notice I haven’t touched on entertainment and there is a good reason for that. It would be easy for me to say stop spending money on entertainment because it is unnecessary, but think about this. What would your life be without personal interests? Work, eat, sleep, stare at a blank wall in between, in fact not much of a life at all. You should work out what you can afford to spend in this area and spend it on whatever suits you best, and if you have followed the advice in this article you might just have a bit more to spend on the things you enjoy.